23 Jan Longrain goes vegan
When Longrain opened its doors in August 1999, it quickly became a Sydney institution, renowned for its flavour popping South-East Asian dishes, sensational cocktail menu and enviable wine list. So successful, it wasn’t long before founder Sam Christie expanded the eatery into Melbourne and Tokyo.
I was an early Longrain devotee, hooked from my very first visit and it was always my go-to for work lunches or dinners with family and friends.
Back then, I was pescatarian and the menu offered so many seafood choices that I was never bored. Over time though, my dining habits evolved in keeping with my path along the road to a kinder lifestyle and as I transitioned from vegetarian to vegan, my visits to the uber cool establishment became far less frequent. Needless to say, these special meals have been sorely missed.
Lucky for me then, that Longrain has also evolved its menu in keeping with the ever-growing lifestyle choice of veganism and it now boasts one of the most enticing vegan menus Australia has to offer.
Curated by Executive Chef Griff Pamment with Sam’s input, the vegan banquet is 100 percent cruelty free from preparation to plate and beyond. Not only that, it’s mouth-wateringly amazing, which to me is the very essence of a great vegan menu – it should be so delicious that eating without cruelty is far from a sacrifice. Rather, it is a lifestyle choice to be enjoyed and celebrated for creating a kinder world for generations to come. With his vegan banquet, Griff has nailed this. There’s zero feeling of deprivation, simply a great sense of excitement as each new dish hits your table. Every morsel that makes up the Longrain banquet sings with delightful Asian spice while delivering all the goodness of pure plant-based cuisine.
Fresh betel leaves featuring yam bean, Thai basil, chilli jam and toasted coconut are first out of the kitchen. These little parcels of fresh healthy greens beautifully wrap up the spicy yam bites in the middle. I’m mad for betel leaves and have sampled them from Singapore through to Thailand. I can genuinely say this option is one of the best I have ever tasted.
The next offering was a sensational mix of sour pineapple topped with caramelised tofu and chilli. Whilst a tiny bite, it packed a powerful punch of flavour and was a massive hit with both my husband and myself.
Arriving next, the snow pea salad with soy dressing provided a beautiful palate cleanser while at the same time offering a unique flavour. Crisp and fresh, it was the perfect segue to silken salt and pepper tofu. Back in my pescatarian days, Longrain’s salt and pepper squid was high on my list, but I have to say that this is even better. It is cooked to melt-in-your-mouth-perfection and my husband and I were actually jokingly arguing over who’d have the last piece.
Of course, the simplicity of stir fried Asian greens was as honest and tasty as ever before, just mixed up a little to be extra special with a truly tantalising garlic and mushroom soy sauce.
Following this, the roasted pumpkin curry had a genuine massaman flavour and texture, minus the cruelty-factor that comes with serving it up with beef or lamb, which makes it even more amazing. It’s a generous serving and by now we were definitely slowing down, so we asked the waiter to pop some aside to take home for us, which proved to be no problem at all.
I’m so glad we did, as it left enough room for dessert and what a dessert it was! The Longrain Layered Dessert features a delightful combination of black sticky rice, young coconut jelly, vanilla tapioca and seasonal fruit. It was incredible.
Never one to miss a detail, Sam Christie has also listed several vegan wine options, recognising that animal products in the fining and filtration process of wine limit the alcohol options available to vegans. He recommends Ravensworth Wines as an excellent example of quality product achieved ethically.
One of the hallmarks of Longrain dining is the communal table. This invites a sense of community, while still allowing space for private dining (the table is wide!). My husband and I were on a date night, so sitting side by side felt intimate, yet the other diners enjoying the same space added to the energy in the restaurant.
This community style also allows you to admire other diner’s food choices and our rolling banquet quickly became a conversation piece. The ‘loved-up’ couple opposite were celebrating a birthday and vegan wasn’t on their radar – until they saw our banquet! They were engrossed in the signature whole crispy tamarind snapper fish yet became clearly envious of our fresh interesting vegan options. Pretty soon we were inundated with comments of “wow, your food looks delicious!” “What did you order?” and “Vegan? That’s not how I imagine vegan … definitely worth trying on our next visit!”
My mind was already made up, but the resounding agreement from the diners around us helped me give this banquet a perfect 10! Longrain is definitely back on my top restaurant list – a plant-based winner offering cruelty free, healthy and super-tasty dining. Be sure to book your seat soon.
Review by Catherine Carr